Thursday, July 1, 2010

Guess What This Post is About?

Hardcover (top left) Paperback (middle) Hardcover sequel (immediate left)

I've been getting a ton of emails asking for my thoughts on Cindy Pon's new covers (I'll respond soon). I saw them last night (well technically today because I saw them around midnight) and many people have already posted about the whitewashing of the covers. I've been silent. Why? Because this feels more personal. I became friends with Justine Larbalestier during the Liar controversy and before I read her book. I still haven't read Magic Under Glass (I promise it will be soon!) but I've been in contact with Jaclyn Dolamore and she's very sweet. However, we only started talking during the MUG cover fail. This time it's different. Cindy Pon has been a huge supporter of Reading in Color from the very beginning. She donated 3 ARCs of Silver Phoenix for me to give away, along with sending me an autographed ARC (I'm pretty sure it was my first one). Yet another book I have that I will treasure always. She's a wonderful person and so nice (I am especially in awe of her kindness in light of my cringe-worthy review of Silver Phoenix, which I really liked but it's not the most eloquent of reviews. Good thing I'm re-reviewing it). Therefore I didn't really want to post about this. However, I'm also drained. But I realized that whitewashing controversies don't hurt the authors (who knows, they might even help) and this is too important not to post about.

The beautiful Silver Phoenix cover has been changed drastically. The paperback version is coming out in February and it is a complete whitewash. I don't like it. The girl on the cover definitely looks white and I think it's rather plain. I did send a Tweet to Cindy Pon that I LOVE the Silver Phoenix hardcover and Fury of the Phoenix has a cool cover. I stand by that. I think the dagger gives it a very cool touch and I'm ambivalent about the half covered face. I don't hate it or love it, I would probably care more if the model on the cover was Asian. Maybe the model is Asian (anyone know?). However, it is most UNCOOL that the publisher feels it has to change the cover for the book to reach more readers. It is UNCOOL that Borders refuses to sell it and that only a few Barnes and Noble stores sell it. I HATE knowing that some readers probably do see the beautiful hardcover Silver Phoenix and walk right on by because they are turned off by 'pretty pink/Asian inspired fantasy'. I do wish the original hardcover showed how action packed the book is (hence the reason why I like the dagger) because I think that could draw in more readers. I HATE that Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix look similar to other YA covers.

Silver Phoenix has a cover that readers could be proud of, especially Asian girls. It's a unique cover that contains a great story. I'm not going to boycott the sequel. I NEED to know what happens next and I don't want anyone else to boycott the book, especially since the publisher did try to have an accurate cover (but then again that could be just as bad since the cover is still being changed). I want Silver Phoenix to find new readers, but I don't want it to alienate its original readers.
Here's what Cindy had to say

i feel so blessed to have gotten the original cover
so wonderfully created by chris borgman. it will
always hold a special place in my heart.
alas, despite its gorgeousness, Silver Phoenix was passed
on by borders and carried in only limited quantities
in select barnes and noble stores. she simply wasn’t
being picked up by readers as much as we’d have liked.

the truth is, Silver Phoenix looks like nothing else
that is being offered on the young adult bookshelves.
on top of that, my story is also “different”. it’s fantasy, which
is very popular right now. but asian-inspired and reads
more like a historical than the more familiar urban.
for every reader that told me s/he’s been waiting so long
for a book like mine to come along, i’ve had another tell
me, i never thought i’d like asian-inspired fantasy, but
really loved Silver Phoenix. (this always makes me so happy!)

i can’t help but wonder how many readers took one
look at my cover, made assumptions (it’s too *this*
or obviously not enough *that*) and decided it
wasn’t for them. i won’t lie. it breaks my heart a little.
the reason that i love fantasy so much is because despite
the fact that an author can take me to an entirely
different world or time, weave epic stories of good
against evil, astound me with mythical creatures, etc, the
fantastic is always grounded in the human experience
. [....]

i’m very well aware of recent discussions
about whitewashing young adult covers as well as
#racefail debates, especially within the speculative
fiction genres. most of you know by now that the
author gets very little say in cover design. i was fortunate
enough to be consulted on many aspects for the original
cover. my debut cover couldn’t have been more fierce
or asian! and i’m so grateful to greenwillow books for spending
the time, money and effort to repackage my books.
with the hopes that it will be carried more widely and
perhaps draw a new audience that my original cover didn’t.

because what matters to me the most has always been
the story. i spent two years writing and revising
Silver Phoenix, went through the gut wrenching heartache of
querying 121 agents so ai ling’s tale could be read. and it’s a
dream come true to be published. i never did it for the money,
fame or glory (i laugh at the thought!). but on a personal level,
i want my stories to be read and on a professional level, read
widely enough that more xia fantasy books in the future is
a possibility. i do have other xia tales in me! =)

i would love to see more diversity in all ways being
published in children’s and young adult genres.
i think progress is happening, even if it may seem painfully slow.
especially when we feel passionate about it. but change doesn’t
happen instantly. i believe success can be achieved through many
small triumphs. and it can start simply with a story…

You can read the rest of her post here

So what am I going to do? Well I already had a giveaway planned that will be announced on Sunday, I'll be giving away a hardcover copy of Silver Phoenix. I wish I could afford to give more away. I'm going to make sure my library has it. When I buy the book I'll be giving away, I'll head to Borders and ask for it, just to be difficult ;) I am torn over whether or not I should email the publishing company. Thoughts?
What else is there to say? I've been ranting about this (whitewashing), discussing it and trying to find a solution for months. I honestly feel like I have nothing new to say about this issue. Instead I'll update this page with links to people talking about Silver Phoenix's covers. I still want to discuss this so I'll be visiting as many posts as I can, leaving comments and replying to comments left here. Don't be shy, if you don't think this is a whitewashed cover, say so! I promise I won't bite your head off :) If you think this is horrible beyond belief, share your anger! Tell me what YOU are going to do and link to your posts.

I'm tired of being tired.

Jeanette Lin: Sad
Writers of Color 50 Book Challenge: Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix
Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind: Dear Greenwillow Books
Babbling About Books, and More: Special Edition WTFckery
The Rejectionist: Insert Animated .gift of The Rejectionist Jumping Up And Down And Screaming Obscenities ( Short, not at all sweet and expresses my own feelings perfectly)
The Book Smugglers: Smugglers' Stash & News
My Words Ate Me: Racism on Covers

PS I also admit that I don't always report on whitewashed covers. I comment on posts that talk about them but honestly it can get really depressing to talk about all the time. For the record, I don't think White Cat was whitewashed, I do think the Mariposa Club was whitewashed. However, I haven't read either book (yet!) so my opinion could change.


  1. I am so freaken tired of this too. I wish publishers would get a freaken clue, that not every one enjoys the generic 1 dimentional covers that make upo more than 90% of books covers these days. It is so annoying and it really makes me think twice about the publisher. I mean just by looking at the two covers side by side they do not compare at all. one is vibrants and color and beautiful, but the new cover could never stand out in a crowd. It is so annoying and insulting that publishers feel the need to reach into a certain demographic instead of trying to represent the author and the authors story. I really hate that this is becoming an epidemic amoung the YA book world. Thanks for informing us Ari!!!

  2. I really hate publishing companies for doing this. I've yet to read Silver Phoenix, but the main reason I initially wanted to was BECAUSE OF THE ORIGINAL COVER. I'm so sick of whitewashing. I prefer covers that actually represent the character. I don't care what sells, stick to the story.

  3. Wow, I'm so disappointed! The original cover is GORGEOUS, and that alone made me seek the book out in bookstores. (Alas, I've never been able to find a copy.) Once I'm able to order books online, I'm definitely going to buy the original hardcover. The new covers are so generic, and the fact that they're whitewashed at that...ugh.

  4. It's interesting that this issue would come up on the day that obviously Asian inspired yet whitewashed The Last Airbender just came out . I'll have to make a post about both...

  5. Ugh. I love the hardcover--it's so pretty and unique. The remake is similar to covers I've seen before. Maybe that's good for drawing people, but I don't like that it looks whitewashed. The cover for the second book doesn't look as bad because the model's skin isn't all washed out. I think she matches the hardcover model more closely (I almost think they have the same lips lol). It's kind of depressing that a bookseller wouldn't pick up the book because it doesn't look like every other YA fantasy on the shelf. :(

  6. (Blah, so I just typed up a long comment and then my internet ATE IT. *shakes fist at unreliable wireless of FAIL* But then in retrospect maybe in this new comment I'll be able to refrain from my capslock over my RAGE.)

    1) Basically these covers + the opening day of The Last Airbender = WORST CANADA DAY EVER OF MY LIFE. MY LIIIIIIIIFE

    2) Institutional racism must die.

    3) Like, in a fiery hell kind of death. And when it does I will spit on it and laugh.

    4) I'm SO ANGRY that EVEN WHEN the author wrote this brilliant story AND the publishers were supportive enough to give it its most amazing and beautiful cover, it still isn't given a chance to sell well because ONE OR TWO PEOPLE IN THE LARGE CHAIN BOOKSTORES TOOK ONE LOOK AT THE ASIAN FACE ON THE COVER AND DECIDED THAT IT WOULDN'T SELL. And then this book would also fall into the category of ~*proof*~ that Asian fantasy doesn't sell because the numbers say so! NEVER MIND THE FACT THAT THEY NEVER EVEN GAVE THESE BOOKS A FUCKING CHANCE, ARGH. (megwrites goes into detail about this so I'm not gonna waste my breath.)

    5) Sadness that Silver Phoenix covers is like a mocking, topsy-turvy reversal of the Liar and Book of a Thousand Days covers situation, except I don't find this funny at all.

    6) For the record I'll still end up buying the sequel because I like, need moar Ai Ling like, NAO. But I'll probably tear off the cover jacket because just looking at the repackaged cover on my computer screen makes me cry.

    7) Those one or two people in charge of picking out the YA books that will be in chain bookstores and thus responsible for what I will be limited to getting for the rest of my life? HATE. HATE THEM ALL.

    8) Will now read more Laurence Yep's fantasy stories to console self. Or the Haikasoru imprints. alfj;sdjf;a;sd

    Re: White Cat P.S. - For me I was more icked out by the fact that I've been hearing the excuse going around that the cover was photoshopped to make Cassel look paler than he already was for ~*aesthetic*~ reasons. (Which was also probably the reasoning behind the cover marker's decision because er, why else did they photoshop his face to a thing of DEATHLY PALLOUR?!) Which reminds me of bleaching skins and whitening products and colourism and general fail all around. Not the same as whitewashing, but still annoying. I'm glad for the cover change, all things considered.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Just dropping by to send another link to another post:

  9. I have always loved the hardcover of this book and I'm ashamed to say I never thought about why my local Borders didn't carry it when I asked them if I could pre-order one.

    I totally understand Cindy's perspective, hoping her baby will reach more readers this way, but I feel like the new cover just blends into the glut of YA paranormal on the shelves now. I thought that Magic Under Glass and Liar were steps toward making sure htis sort of thing didn't happen, but I guess I had too much faith in humanity for a second there. *sigh*

  10. Sigh. This is just so disappointing. I loved the original Silver Phoenix cover, and now HC/Greenwillow is getting rid of everything that made it beautiful and distinctive and making the new ones look so blah and generic and Kelley Armstrong-ish. To lose not only the Asian-ness, but to also go from a defiant and determined young woman to those passive, obscured faces? It makes me sad. (And does it make me a bad Asian-American that the lack of Asian-ness is not the main thing that bothers me, but just one several equally bothersome things? Because *I do* wish the new covers had a more recognizably Asian look -- preferably via an Asian face -- but Ai Ling seems so much weaker now.)

  11. aww that's too bad! I loved the cover cause it looked unique and like an epic fantasy. So sick of the dark covers with half the face hidden!!

  12. @iluvhersheys-You tell 'em! And the head buyers for Borders and Barnes and Noble are both white men, we need more diversity! No offense to white men but I don't expect much from them. I agree, the new cover fits in with the YA world which is what the publishers want but it makes Silver Phoenix lose its appeal a bit. Thanks for commenting :)

    @theBook Owl-If you can, buy the hardcover then! It's a great book. I hear you, readers just want covers that are true to the story. Thanks for commenting!

    @HeatherH-You should request it, that's what I'm going to do. Some people have been saying that the models on the new covers could be Asian, but we will never know (unless the publisher tells us) and they covered up the eyes which is so obvious and just ugh!

    @Najela-Not a good coincidence =/ I'll check for your post.

    @Katy-The models don't look similar to me but maybe they are the same person. it's so depressing that a bookseller won't pick up a book that has an Asian girl on the cover and is fantasy.

    @Ah Yuan-We emailed so I'll keep this brief
    1)I LOVE comments so never apologzie for the length
    2)I will dance with you once insitutional racisim dies (it's gotta happen in our lifetime!)
    3)I know, I know, I know. Believe me I know. Just vent :D Not laughing.
    4) Apparentely it's all white men who do the buying for B&N and Borders so I'm thinking a massive email/letter campaign is needed. I'll buy the sequel to because I want to know what happens and read more about delicious food and one of the coolest worlds created.

    5) I thought the White Cat ARC cover was just pale but the finalized cover was darker? Skin bleaching and what not is just as bad, that's a post for the distant future though. Gotta love subtle racisim, I'll never run out of discussion posts *bitter bitter laughter*

    6) Happy Canada day!

    @Jodie-Thanks for the link =)

    @Tere-I never noticed that Borders didn't care it either, I don't expect much from them. At least you ordered a copy! I'll be doing that too :)

    I get Cindy's perspective too and I sincerely hope it does reach more readers. I just wish it could have mainted some of its more original cover elements. At least the story within is wonderfully unique. I'm numb at this point. Nothing will surprise me anymore.

    @Trisha-Haha, you are so not a bad Asian American! I <3 your booklists so much. I didn't really notice that but it's true, Ai Ling no longer looks as defiant.

    @Rebecca-Same! It's quite eye catching and now it sort of blends in. But at the same time I guess publishers think that's good? *sigh*

  13. Thank you for speaking up. <3

  14. I agree with Trisha about the loss of that look of determination from the character. The first thing I noticed when I saw the side-by-side was the difference in the apparent power of the women.

    The first cover is so beautiful -- she looks in control and ready to unleash some serious power. The other covers -- in *addition* to the whitewashing -- are much less interesting, and it's sad that the women's faces are hidden. (Oh and then there's that: I see them as models -- not the *character* I see on the first cover.) It's even sadder that they are not Asian! The other covers are not better in any way, except apparently to the chain store buyers. How perfectly infuriating!

    Also, just purchased the hardcover online.

  15. I ordered Silver Phoenix last night after I read about the cover change. It... well, the whole thing just totally sucks. And to make matters worse, I feel like the new covers are nondescript and boring. The original cover stands out so much more (in my opinion).

    Thanks for your thoughts, Ari.

  16. You know what? I just ordered two copies of Silver Phoenix from Amazon, with the original cover. Partly because A) The original cover is beautiful B)I want to support PoC authors C) It's on sale (7 dolla hardcover holla!!) and D) It's my blogoversary/birthday month and how cool is it to give away a PoC book?

    I think the new covers are pretty BUT completely WRONG for these books. I mean, okay if the books were about a white person instead of an Asian, then yes, they would be cool. BUT, couldn't they make a beautiful cover with a beautiful Asian girl?

  17. Oh, and I just wanted to point out that even though I don't think the cover for the new book is as bad as the remade first cover, I am still disappointed that they went away from what was such a pretty and eye-catching and unique cover to something so average that seeks to hide the main character's race.

    (and I think you're right about the models, Ari--once I clicked on the covers and looked at them larger, their lips do not look as similar as I thought at first.)

  18. First cover: Bright, airy, dynamic, resplendent. I'm going to take you on a beautiful epic adventure the likes you've rarely seen.

    Second cover: Morose, dark, gloomy rip-off. We're hiding the fact she's white so you can't see we're hiding the fact she's Asian.

    When I was a boy in an all-white world, I was pulled to the exotic - Bruce Lee and Mr. Spock. I wanted eyes like theirs. Why do they think girls today would be pulled towards the same lame images they're force-fed every day?

  19. That model is NOT Asian. Only an Asian with a Caucasian mother or father would look like that. And Ai Ling does not have a Caucasian father or mother, right?

    I am boycotting the hardcover edition of Fury of the Phoenix. Hopefully the paperback cover will not be whitewashed, or will not feature a model at all.

    I do love Cindy Pon. I'll buy two copies of the hardcover edition of Silver Phoenix to prove that.

  20. I just had the absolute pleasure of meeting Cindy on our Supernatural Underground blog, hosted by a variety of authors with Harpercollins.

    I love the first cover for many reasons. The remade version is great as well, not as colorful nor interesting as the first and it obviously doesn't portray the character in the correct way.

    But, sad to say that publishing is a business and the change of cover was based on numbers. If a large chain like borders passes on Cindy's book because of cover...that loses her thousands of potential new readers. That is a huge account to lose. It's sad but that is the reality and at the end of the day, HC wants the books out there for people to buy.

    The covers reflect the market trend and though its unfortunate it is the reality. I wish it were different.

    I hope I'm making sense.

  21. This really ticks me off because the original cover for Silver Phoenix is beautiful! I haven't read Silver Phoenix yet (it's on my wishlist) and the only reason I haven't bought it yet is not because of the asian girl on the cover--it's because the hardbacks are too expensive for me right now! And because of this whitewashing the cover of this gorgeous book I'm seriously thinking about just buying it right now! If I'm going to buy this book I want the original cover. The cover is what attracted me to this book in the first place.

    I understand that they want a change because they want to sell more and reach new readers but, I think they could have gone a different way. Did they have to whitewash it to that extent? They could still use an asian girl and just made the cover...I don't know, less colorful or something. Because now if I read this book knowing the girl in the story is asian I'm going to look at the cover and be like..."What the hell?"

    And now I've completely convinced myself to buy the hardback of Silver Phoenix because I want that amazing cover with the beautiful asian girl on it.

  22. As a white women this enrages me. Here is my post on this:

  23. This makes me feel kind of guilty. I've been meaning to order a copy of Silver Phoenix for ages (the original cover attracted me to it in the first place, and some fabulous reviews contributed), but as I live in the UK I waited... I guess in the hope that it would be published here, or that I'd be able to pick it up when the paperback came out. Now I kind of feel like I'm one of the people who has failed to support the original cover. I'd never even contemplated the possiblity that subsequent editions would have a different cover. Thanks for the heads up on this. :)

  24. @Renay-And thank you for speaking up!

    @Casey-true, on the first cover Ai Ling looks so determined (although some people have pointed out that her hands look like she's surrendering...) Good point, on the first cover I see her as Ai Ling, with the other two covers, I see them as models.

    I'm so glad you bought the hardcover, hopefully you'll get the sequel too :)

    @Abby-Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for buying a hardcover. The whole situation does suck. At least the publisher is sticking with Cindy Pon.

    @April-I'm glad you order two copies although I think the sale means that the publisher/bookseller won't see how well the book is doing (I believe the term is remaindered?) It's very cool to give away a POC book, holla! haha

    Right or if they 'had' to get rid of the Asian girl on the cover, they could have done two new covers without anyone's face on them.

    @Katy-Yes, I think that the sequel cover isn't nearly as bad. She 'looks more Asian' I suppose. And the dagger is cool. But the remade original cover just makes me mad.

  25. @maine character-You hit the nail on the head with both covers. Well I don't know if I would use the word 'exotic' but I know what you mean.

    @Tarie-Right. It's your decision and I understand why you feel that way. Your letter was great. I still want to support Cindy Pon because at least the publisher is not giving up on her and the story of Ai Ling.

    Yay for buying two copies!

    @Juliana Stone- I've checked out the Supernatural Underground blog, it's very interesting. I can understand the business side of why the cover was changed, but I wonder if the publisher realized the message it was sending by changing the cover to all its readers, especially its Asian readers?

    You made perfect sense and I'm still very glad that HarperCollins is sticking with Cindy Pon and trying to get the books into the hands of more readers.

    @Adel-That's what everyone is saying, hardcovers are more expensive and that's why many people have yet to buy the hardcover of Silver Phoenix.

    If they went about changing the cover in a different way, getting rid of a face and just using images (food! weapons! lvoely China scenary!)

    I'm thrilled you're buying the hardcover :D

    @katiebabs-Thank you for sharing your post, I commented and linked to it!

    @Lauren-I'd never thought of that either, I knew that sometimes publishers changed the paperback versions but I never figured it would be such a drastic change. The original cover was what attracted me to the book first as well, before I had even read the summary.

    I wish Silver Phoenix had been published in the UK too =/

    Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts and telling me what you are doing to make a statement!

  26. The changing of covers really does sadden me. I'm going to link to this post from my blog. I came over from Steph Su's blog.


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